What is Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition that leaves your legs with the urge to move. There are 4 criteria that you must meet in order to be diagnosed with restless leg syndrome. The four criteria are:

  • You experience strong urges to move your legs that you are unable to resist. You feel uncomfortable sensations in your legs that accompany the urges to move your legs. These sensations feel like creepy-crawly, a tugging or gnawing feeling in your legs.
  • The symptoms either start or become worse when you are resting your legs. The longer your legs are at rest the more severe the symptoms get.
  • When you move your legs the symptoms get better. As long as you are moving your legs the symptoms are relieved, when you rest your legs, the symptoms return.
  • The RLS symptoms worsen at night when you are lying on your bed, especially when you try to sleep.

The sensations disturb your sleep so that it is difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep because of the sensations in your legs. RLS can lead to sleep deprivation that can have disastrous consequences for you at work, school or at home. The lack of sleep can affect your health, your relationships and your ability to function.

Individuals who have RSL may also have periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS). PLMS are jerks that happen every 20 or 30 seconds periodically during your sleep.

Treatments

Besides taking prescribed medications for RLS, someone who has RLS can also do the following to help with their symptoms:

    Ask the doctor to check to see if there are any underlying deficiencies in iron, vitamins or minerals. Ask your doctor if any of the other medications you are taking may in fact be making your RLS symptoms worse. Drugs that may interact with RLS are high blood pressure medications, cardiac meds, nausea, cold or allergy medications and also medications prescribed for depression. It is also important that if you are taking any herbal or other over-the-counter medications that they are not making your RLS symptoms worse – your pharmacist or doctor should be able to answer you regarding this.

    Examine your diet to be sure it is healthy and well balanced as getting good nutrition is vital to a healthy, well-working body.

    Eliminate any alcohol intake you may presently consume.

    Activities that may help your to relax at night include:

    Taking a walk

    Stretching

    Taking a relaxing hot bath

    Massaging your legs

    Acupressure or other relaxation techniques

    If you experience symptoms while seated try keeping your mind occupied with discussions, craftwork, video games or reading.

    Explore good sleeping habits to help you fall asleep

    Eliminate caffeine from your diet (beverages and food items)

RLS is not limited to just your legs, RLS symptoms can occur in your arms and also in the trunk of your body.

Diagnosing RLS

Although RLS symptoms are commonly found in middle-aged individuals, it can be diagnosed in individuals of any age including kids.

A doctor diagnoses RLS by first listening to your complaints so that there is a working list of your symptoms.

A diagnostic interview will be conducted that will give the doctor clues and more information about when and how the symptoms occur.

The doctor will review your medical history and do a thorough physical examination.

The doctor may have to do tests to rule out other conditions before diagnosing you with RLS.

Tests that may be performed are:

Blood ferritin (iron) levels

Sleep lab study

There are no exact tests to determine RLS.

RLS often appears in other family members, which suggests it could be hereditary. Researches found a gene variant in a study conducted in July of 2007.